Yesterday, I had the honor to speak with the "Global Issues" class at St. Bernard's High School in Montville, CT. Their teacher, Deb Fitzgerald, invited me to talk with her students and they were just great. They were completely unafraid to argue and question, they made good points, their comments reflected a real grasp of the way different issues interact with one another. I thank them and Mrs. Fitzgerald for having me and wish them lot of hard work and learning (and it is work, but it is worth it) in the rest of the year.
As regular readers know, I am up here in Connecticut this week and yesterday’s news and this morning’s papers were dominated by coverage of Governor Dannel Malloy’s State of the State address. Having not been paying close attention to state politics, I thought this would be a yawn for me but Gov. Malloy did not just set out the fiscal challenges facing the state. He called for wholesale reform of public schools including changing the tenure system for teachers.
Calls for changing tenure are not new, but coming from a Democratic governor in an very blue state, and at a time when public employee unions are understandably sensitive after a series of attacks on their most basic rights in Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona, and elsewhere, I was surprised. Why would a Democratic governor tangle with his base so soon after coming off a big fight last year with public employee unions about give-backs to balance the budget?
Don Clemmer at the USCCB blog notes the similarities between Lyndon Johnson bemoaning Walter Cronkite's comments opposing Vietnam and Chris matthews comments on the HHS mandates. One this is clear - the White House is learning that we weren't kidding when we told them this issue would touch a chord with many progressive Catholics who are normally supportive of the President and his agenda.
Here is the link to the audio of my discussion yesterday with Professor Mark Silk on the Colin McEnroe Show. Silk knows more about religion and how it intersects with politics than almost any other two scholars combined and it is always a joy to be on a show with someone like him.
Just a reminder that I will be on the Marty Moss-Coane show on Philadelphia's WHYY tomorrow discussing both the Falwell book and the HHS mandates.
No doubt about it – former Senator Rick Santorum’s hat trick last night, winning the caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado, and the non-binding primary in Missouri, gave his previously lagging campaign a new boost of energy and raised serious questions, actually one serious question about Mitt Romney: Why are Republican voters reluctant to get on-board his bandwagon?
There are some answers to that question, which I will get to in a minute, but, the biggest news from last night was the turnout. It was low. Very low. Roughly 251,000 people in Missouri turned out to vote last night. In 2008, 588,720 Republicans voted in that state’s primary. In Colorado, about 67,000 Republican voters showed up at last night’s caucuses, but in 2008, 70,229 showed up. And in Minnesota, some 48,000 voters went to the caucuses last night compared to almost 63,000 in 2008. There is not that much enthusiasm for these candidates and that is potentially a big problem for the GOP come November.
Yesterday, Politico reported that David Axelrod, the President’s chief political strategist, admitted that the administration needs to revisit the issue of conscience exemptions and the HHS mandates. Axelrod, however, also re-stated the administration’s lame arguments for the original decision.
Also, yesterday, the editors of Commonweal opined that while the administration’s decision was bad, the bishops have over-reacted and that it is time to find a compromise.
A reminder, this afternoon on will be interviewed on the Colin McEnroe show on WNPR in Connecticut. If you are not in the listening area, I will post a link to the interview as soon as I get back home.
Also, tonight, I will be speaking at the UConn Co-op about my biography of Jerry Falwell at 6 p.m.
Tomorrow, I will be visiting St. Bernard's High School in Montville, CT to speak with their "Global Issues" class.
And, on Thursday, I will be in WHYY, at 10 a.m., discussing the Falwell book and the role of religion in the 2012 election.
I know that some readers come only to certain parts of the NCR website, but all readers should consult John Allen's report on the sex abuse conference going on in Rome. John, whose rolodex is the envy of all Vatican reporters, brings us behind the scenes, and past the stereotypes, to show how the culture of the Vatican itself is changing, slowly to be sure, but changing nonetheless.
Over at the New Republic, Randall Balmer argues that Romney should more openly discuss his Mormon faith. I am not sure Balmer is right and I am betting the Romney campaign has done a bunch of focus groups on the issue. Of course, before we hand anyone as much power as we hand a president, we are entitled to know a great deal about that person. And, I would relish shifting the national political conversation from "values" to how we arrive at values, what philosophic anthropology and what religious doctrines inspire those values, although there is precious little in American history to suggest the country is even ready to have that discussion.
One thing is clear: Romney's Mormonism, like his wealth, is not going away as an issue.
Weekend before last, I was determined to undertake no writing and no heavy reading. What better way to kill time than an old and wonderful movie. I watched “Gandhi.” Of course, I had been writing a great deal about the issue of religious liberty, and the movie reminded me that we should avoid histrionics, to be sure, but that religious liberty is something that must be defended – and not just liberty but a culture of religious tolerance to support that liberty.
The highpoint of the movie “Gandhi” is not when the Union Jack is lowered over New Delhi. It is not the end of British rule that really provides the drama: It is the question of keeping India united. Gandhi succeeded in ending British rule but he was unable to keep India from breaking apart into two countries, one Muslim and one Hindu, and violence between members of the two creeds forced mass displacement of people on both sides of the border. Pakistan and India have fought several undeclared wars since and the paranoia of Pakistan’s military remains a hurdle in U.S.-Pakistani relations, especially as we improve relations with India which is the world’s largest democracy.